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Until November of last year, California prosecutors could bypass the juvenile justice system, charging minors in adult courts without any input from a judge. “Prosecutorial direct filing” is no longer legal after the passage of Prop 57 last November, and now a report from advocacy organization Human Impact Partners, published earlier this month, has made a case for why California should go further–and eliminate the practice of charging youth as adults entirely.
‘Juvenile InJustice: Charging Youth as Adults is Ineffective, Biased, and Harmful’ argues that adult correctional systems are inappropriate for young people based on factors such as inadequate health and education resources, exclusion of families from adult court proceedings, and lack of consideration the adult court system gives to the individual circumstances surrounding each particular minor, not just their crime.
The report finds that young people incarcerated in adult correctional facilities are more likely than those in juvenile facilities to face trauma, violence, and abuse, including a 36-fold increase in likelihood of committing suicide, and five-fold increase in sexual assault.
Those diverted to adult court are more likely to be people of color as well: 88% of juveniles who were tried as adults in 2015 were youth of color.
The report cites that between 2003 and 2014, the rate of prosecutorial direct filing in California increased by 23% even though the rate of juvenile felony arrests had decreased by 55%. Its authors argue that direct filing, a practice that continues in other states, expands unnecessarily punitive punishments to minors who would be better served in the juvenile justice system.
The report from Human Impact Partner can be found here.